Camarillo youth has the Midas touch

by Dennis Noone

m8.jpg (15155 bytes)As 1983 draws to a close, Lance Winslow, entrepreneur, will sit back and reflect on yet another successful year.

The ambitious Camarillo resident, who seems to have something against free time, has just brought to a conclusion a successful holiday enterprise that may go a long way toward stuffing his stocking.

Lance, though, is unlike the average successful mogul.   As he reflects back on his years of success, the memories are much fresher than those of the average corporate wheel.

He's only 19.

Winslow uses his youth to his advantage.  As a student senator at Ventura College, he takes 22 class units - a full load by any measure.

In addition, the 1983 Rio Mesa High School graduate and senior class president now runs his own airplane cleaning business - Aero Speed Waxing, based at Camarillo Airport - which he has owned in one form or another for most of the past seven years and which he eventually plans to franchise.

As if all that weren't enough, Winslow - a glib personable young man who works out of his parents home and drives a brand-new truck - has started his own aircraft-brokerage firm, bringing together buyers and sellers to the profit of all.

Obviously not one to let any opportunity get by, Winslow has recently diversified again, this time into the Christmas card business.  Though his strong suit is sales, Winslow's latest endeavor combined art, calligraphy, marketing, organization and community service into one neat, tidy - and profitable - sideline.

To fully understand how this entrepreneurial dynamo got his start, a little background is in order.

At age 10, Lance said he was recognized as the nation's second-fastest long-distance runner for his age group - a pastime he still sporadically enjoys.

Two years later he began cleaning airplanes for some extra pocket money at the suggestion of his father, Ray, who until recently was employed as a pilot for Continental Airlines.

So beginning at Camarillo Airport, Lance would vacuum, polish and prepare small planes for their pilots.  In a short time, he had 35 accounts - not bad for a boy his age,considering he was charging $10 per plane, and doing each plane about once a week.  Eventually, he decided to sell his business to a friend for $1,600, and to take a short break from the heady world of finance.

Soon, though, the bug returned, prompted in part by his friend's enlistment in the Air Force and his abandonment of the plane-cleaning business.   Lance, seeing another chance for profit, revived the business, this time hiring others to do the actual cleaning for a fraction of the gross receipts.

Lance, then 14 years old, was off and running.

As time passed, Winslow's interests - in business as well as athletics - continued to flourish.

"Hanging around the airport, I used to hear the men talking about business, taxes and that kind of thing," he said in a recent interview.   "You hear enough of that and it starts to make sense.  I found that after awhile, I could talk on their level - an adult level - and they got to know me, to know that I'm OK."

Soon after the teenager became a fixture at the airport, he developed enough business acumen to bring together a man who wanted to sell a plane and one who wanted to buy.  That happenstance arrangement was Lance's first brokering success, and he was immediately smitten.

"I did a few more," he said, "and one guy said he'd buy me lunch because I sold his airplane.  That's when I decided I was going to start charging 2 percent."

Pretty savvy for a 14-year-old who was just entering high school.

"I sold one, and made $240.  then I sold another, and made $500.  Then I was off.  That was it..."

As his businesses continued to grow and his bank balance swelled.  Lance again got involved in athletics.  Becoming a four-year, multi-sport letterman in high school.

After graduation, Lance bought a new pickup truck, started at Ventura College and wasted no time getting himself elected to the Student Senate.

In the past two months, he decided to send out Christmas cards "to everybody who said they were going to buy planes but didn't."  He figured he'd need about 1,500 cards for non-buyers, as well as his dozens of personal and corporate clients.

"I started looking around and they wanted about 90 cents a car." he said.  "I said, "Who wants to spend that much?"   After researching the matter, Lance decided he could provide the same service at 10 cents a card.  Thus was born his latest venture.

Winslow recruited several students from his college salesmanship class, including a calligrapher to handle the lettering, and artist to do the designs, and others to handle sales.  He had the cards reproduced inexpensively at a local copy shop, and then was faced with how to address the envelopes.

"I paid some girls at a local junior high to do the addressing," Winslow said, adding, "I thought it was a nice thing to do for the community."  The girls, evidently taken with their wealthy young employer, "even gave me a plaque.   I felt pretty good about it."

Before it was over the company had received orders for 30,000 cards and had to stop there because it could fill no more.

As 1983 was coming to a close, Lance did a little reflecting.

"Some people have given salesmanship a bad name.   I'm honest, though, and I've learned how to build up confidence in each customer.   Actually, salesmen are really problem solvers," he explained.   "People have a problem, a need, and I try to fill it."

Lance credits Marie Wagner, his salesmanship teacher at the college, with much of his recent success.  "She's just a super teacher, and I've learned so much from her.  She teaches the best class on campus."

What does the future hold for the 19-year-old entrepreneur?

"I want a big company - probably an aircraft multi-listing service." he said.

Winslow already has the details of that venture all figured out.  "I'll get a personal computer, and hook it up to a modem, and then people can call me and get the information, even when I'm not there.

"I was going to do it before the end of the year, for tax purposes, but I'm going to buy other things instead - maybe a plane.

"I figure I can retire when I'm 25.  I have the feeling that once I retire, I can travel around - Princess Cruises, Tahiti, Hawaii...I just want to retire early, and manage my investments - and date a lot and party with my friends.

Reprinted from Star Free Press, December 25, 1983.

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